Washington Monument to Stay Closed Until 2014

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Workers rappel from the top of the Washington Monument as inspections to the structure begin September 28, 2011.

Not only won’t you be able to scale to the top of the Washington Monument until as late as 2014, but be prepared to see the national icon surrounded by a massive construction scaffolding starting this fall.

The National Park Service says the 555-foot-tall obelisk, damaged by an earthquake in August 2011, will take 12 to 18 months to repair, possibly pushing the closure into 2014 — nearly three years after the quake. That work to fix the monument still hasn’t started, as various engineering assessments and financial allocations have pushed back the start of actual repairs.

(VIDEO: Inside D.C. Monument During East Coast Quake)

While the 5.8-magnitude earthquake left the monument on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall structurally sound, it caused cracking and shifting on its facade, especially near the top of the column where nine marble panels have cracked and could fall on the people below. A massive scaffolding — the first for the monument in more than a decade — needs to be built in order to allow workers to repair the panels.

Interior panels and tie beams will also get fixed during the closure.

The National Park Service will continue to divert the roughly 700,000 annual visitors away from the monument and make way for construction vehicles (which will take over a pedestrian walkway for access).

But what is Washington’s loss could be Lincoln and Jefferson’s gain, as visitor numbers are expected to increase at the other presidential monuments nearby.

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